Avoid outsourcing services unless there’s a clear public benefit, says UNISON

Christina McAnea says essential public services should be run for the public, not for profit

A future Labour government should do all it can to bring outsourced contracts in health, education, police and councils back in-house, says a new report from UNISON today (Friday).Any decisions by public bodies to outsource any services should have to pass a key public interest test, according to the report. This means the running of important local services should only be offered up to private contractors if it can be demonstrated to deliver better value to the public, workforce and those who use the services.

The test that contracts should have to pass would include the following points:

  • The quality of the service that would be delivered
  • Value for money
  • The effects on workers’ job conditions such as pay and holiday entitlements
  • Any implications for other public services and their budgets
  • The impact on the local economy and its job market
  • The ability of the contractor to meet climate targets and equality considerations.

The test should also be applied to contracts coming up for renewal, says the union.

The report says years of outsourcing – during which there have been high profile failures such as Carillion and Southern Cross – have prioritised short-term cost savings. The wider costs to workers’ standards of living, the quality of services and the impact on public finances were hidden.

Providing services in-house should become the default position, the report concludes.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Local services are always best provided by publicly accountable organisations that are based in the local communities they serve.“But central government has put the squeeze on health, care and school budgets, causing local councils and hospitals to put key contracts out to tender to reduce costs.“This isn’t good for anyone. Essential public services should be run for the public, not to make a profit for shareholders.”Notes to editors:– The report, Securing the Public Interest Through Insourcing and Better Procurement, was presented at a fringe event at UNISON’s national conference, which has been taking place at the ACC Liverpool throughout this week. Further details of the conference can be found here– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors. Media contacts:Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk